Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

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Shocking poverty figures provoke call for more digital inclusion support

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Nearly a quarter of a million people in Wales want a job but do not have one.  More than 8,000 households were homeless in 2013 and 79,000 people needed food aid.  One in three children lives in a low income family. This is the stark backdrop to the Bevan Foundation’s new report “Rethinking Poverty – Implications for Action”, which is of great interest to us at the Wales Co-operative Centre and the work that we do that supports the wider poverty agenda.

The report argues that digital and financial skills are essential to help people out of poverty, or at least mitigate its impact.  About digital inclusion, the report says:

“Digital skills are an important adjunct to literacy and numeracy, as more and more services are either available only online, or offer time and/or cash savings if accessed online. The shift towards online benefit claims is a particularly strong driver of change. People without access to the internet and without the skills to use it are disadvantaged. There is a marked income-effect in digital exclusion – in 2013, only 1 in 10 (9%) of those in managerial and professional occupations did not use the internet compared to more than three in ten (31%) of those who had semi-routine and routine occupations.

“It is very welcome that digital skills have a relatively high profile in the 2013 Tackling Poverty Action Plan.  The plan includes the Digital Inclusion delivery plan’s targets, the targets for which have mostly been met.  The commitment to digital skills and inclusion should continue, with challenging targets for people in low income groups, with programmes of sufficient scale and impact to achieve them.”

The Money Made Clear Wales website is a great example of where people can get financial advice online

The Money Made Clear Wales website is a great example of where people can get financial advice online

The achievement of the targets in the Digital Inclusion delivery plan was due to the Welsh Government’s Communities 2.0 programme, which is led by the Wales Co-operative Centre.  How is this going to work then when Communities 2.0 comes to an end in March next year?  Well, we need everyone in Wales working to tackle poverty to take digital inclusion seriously.  Our experience is that the current practice is too patchy.  And to get this consistency we need a strong, lean leading digital inclusion project  to help all front line services deliver effective digital skills support.

The Bevan Foundation report is blunt about the nature of the challenge.  For the last eight years, there has been no improvement at all in the number of Welsh people living in poverty.  And that number is set to rise.  Yes, we need an informed debate.  But we also need action.

Dave Brown is the Director of Strategic Development & Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre

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Welsh social enterprises losing out on digital boom

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New research from Lloyds Bank shows that many SMEs are missing out on the benefits of being online, and that community groups and social enterprises are lagging behind.  As Director of Strategic Development & Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre, I’ve looked into what the study means for social businesses here. soc ent comm 2 point 0

The Lloyds Bank research gives a snapshot of how SMEs, including social enterprises, use the internet.  The backdrop is that business is increasingly being done online: this year, UK consumers are forecast to spend £107 billion on the web, an increase of 17% year on year.

And it’s not just buying that’s going online, it’s giving too.  Charities that can accept donations over the internet, saw a 27% increase in the number of contributions they receive. In 2013, £2.5 million was raised online from 3.7 million Tweets through social media service Twitter and Just Giving. This was an increase of 448% on 2011.

And yet the facts in the Lloyds Bank UK survey are stark:

  • Around a third of SMEs and social enterprises don’t have websites
  • Social enterprises are much less likely to be online than for-private-profit businesses
  • Just 28% of community groups and social enterprises have the skills to transact online
  • A quarter of community groups and social enterprises feel that the internet isn’t relevant to them

The Wales Co-operative Centre’s experience of running the Social Enterprise Support and Communities 2.0 projects is that an effective ICT strategy is integral to the success of flourishing social enterprises.  The Welsh Government funded Communities 2.0 project has supported over 800 social enterprises and community groups, conducting ICT reviews and supporting investment in new systems to increase revenue, create jobs and improve business efficiency.  For example, the Wales Co-operative Centre’s support to Canolfan Soar in Merthyr Tydfil has helped the enterprise increase the proportion of their income that comes from trading from 35% to 65%.

Independent analysts Booz and Co. estimate full digital take up, with everyone online, could add £63 billion value to the UK economy.  The danger is that community organisations and social enterprises will continue to lag behind the rest of the economy.  They will lose out.  Our Social Enterprise Support and Communities 2.0 projects have had a huge impact already, and Wales needs specialist ICT support to social enterprises to continue.

Written by Dave Brown

November 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

How will the new UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy help tackle poverty in Wales?

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This month, the UK Government published its updated Digital Inclusion Strategy.  Dave Brown, Director of Strategic Development and Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre, asks what this might mean for Wales.

The UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy describes succinctly the scale of the digital exclusion issue as it affects the whole of the UK.

“Today, the web has 2.4 billion users worldwide. To put this incredible speed of adoption in some context, radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, television took 13 years, web took 4 years and Facebook took just 10 months. In 2013, 89% of young people now use a smartphone or tablet to go online, up from 43% in 2010.

The web has transformed almost every aspect of public, private and work life. It has underpinned our new economy; from changing the way every workplace communicates to creating entire new industries. It is reshaping government through improved public services and improving transparency through open data.

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And it has improved people’s lives, whether through cutting household bills, finding a job or maintaining contact with distant friends and relatives. For business and voluntary organisations, going online can provide ways to reach more customers and reduce operating costs. The internet also provides broader benefits, by helping to address wider social and economic issues like reducing isolation and improving health.”

So what is to be done about the half million or so people in Wales who are left behind: those that lack the skills, confidence, motivation or opportunity to get online?  There is little in the UK Government document that relates to our specific Welsh context.  What we have got in Wales is a proud history of putting our money where our mouth is, when it comes to funding digital inclusion support.  The Welsh Government’s Communities 2.0 programme is run by the Wales Co-operative Centre, and has had a huge impact on the lives of those most excluded and most affected by poverty.

As Wales moves on from Communities 2.0, to the next phase of digital inclusion support, we need to build on the strong foundations of partnership laid down by Communities 2.0 initiatives.  Yes, practical digital inclusion activities need to be integrated into the mainstream.  But for this to be effective it needs support, coordination and leadership.  Nothing like the revolution in information and communication described in the UK Government document has ever happened before. As Wales, as a nation, responds to this challenge, it seems right to give the issue the particular attention that only a dedicated strategic project can bring.

Written by Mark Smith

November 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Get Merthyr Tydfil Online set to Soar!

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Zoar Chapel in Merthyr Tydfil has been a central part of life in the town since the middle of the 19th Century, long before the days of Facebook and Twitter. Yesterday, as Theatr Soar, it played host to an event that marked a new effort to help local people reap the benefits of digital technology.

Welsh Government Minister, Jeff Cuthbert

Welsh Government Minister, Jeff Cuthbert

The launch event for ‘Get Merthyr Tydfil Online’ was attended by representatives of organisations that will be involved in the campaign, working in partnership. Communities 2.0 – the Welsh Government’s digital inclusion programme – organised the launch with colleagues in Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and Merthyr Valley Homes.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, reiterated the fact that the Centre is the lead partner in Communities 2.0 and that the programme is doing vital work in supporting individuals, organisations and small enterprises to do more with digital technologies. Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty in Welsh Government, attended the event and said how not being online ‘restricts opportunities to improve lives’. This was borne out in a video that was played to the audience, telling the story of Deborah Price who secured a job after volunteering with Communities 2.0 in Merthyr Central Library.

We were given a tour of the Get Merthyr Tydfil Online website, an insight into digital inclusion work in social housing from Merthyr Valley Homes, with closing comments from Cllr. Phil Williams – Deputy Leader of Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council – who cited the value of partnership working in the campaign.

Stephanie Davies and Angela Jones of Communities 2.0 address the event

Stephanie Davies and Angela Jones of Communities 2.0 address the event

To round off the morning, we were given an opportunity to meet members of a local Job Club who had been attending computer classes, supported by Communities 2.0. One of the learners, Mark, told me why he wanted to learn more: “I’d been referred to the classes by my local Job Centre. It encouraged me to try something new, as I’d used computers for shopping online, downloading music and talking to people on Skype, but not for finding work or getting more qualifications. I’ve recently started an ECDL course. I’m hoping that all these courses and classes will lead to long-term employment for me and a better future. I’d even love to have a job in computers”.

Co-operative online newpaper launches new funding model

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A community news website in a South Wales town where the last dedicated paper closed two years ago has launched a new funding model which it believes could revolutionise its fortunes.

A co-operative first was launched by eight journalists in 2009 in reaction to major cuts in the local press including the closure that year of Trinity Mirror weekly the Port Talbot Guardian.

In 2011 they launched the website Port Talbot Magnet, funded largely by donations from directors and interested partners, with stories written on a voluntary basis.

It has now combined its cooperative ethic with the US ‘Spot.Us’ non-profit model based on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.

The new model is called Pitch-in! and calls on locals to support the website by producing local news, suggesting stories for journalists to work on, sponsoring journalists, donating to its development fund, sponsoring new sections, carry out fundraising and volunteering.

As it is a social enterprise and a co-operative all profits go back into developing the news service.

Those behind the website say it is built on the belief that “good journalism is essential to democracy” and aims to “ensure it is accessible to all”.

One of MagNet’s directors, Rachel Howells, said: “We have set up a great basic framework for producing local news for Port Talbot, but we want to do something innovative, and something that involves local people in their own news.”

“We know this model has great potential. We’ve seen something similar in action in America, for example with the website Spot.Us, which collects donations towards stories that are in the public interest and distributes them on all kinds of news networks.

“But we have brought a few different ideas together to come up with It – the Spot.Us model was one element, but we also brought the ethos of co-operatives to this idea, along with our hyperlocal focus, which means we are intent on serving the town of Port Talbot.”

Howells is currently researching a PhD at Cardiff University into what happens to a town when it loses its local paper and the implications for democracy. In it she is looking at sustainable alternative business models for news.

She added: “We think Pitch-in! gives local people a real chance to get involved in the way news serves Port Talbot, and to have a say in how it is provided. Gone are the days of journalists deciding the news agenda and simply dishing it out.

“Today’s news agendas should be part of an ongoing collaboration with the communities they represent and serve. We want people to pitch in, both with money and fundraising efforts, but also with ideas and news of their own. We have the framework and the skills to develop the service, but we think community involvement and collaboration is the only way we’ll develop in the future.”

Targets for the appeal include sponsoring a court reporter for a day, or sponsoring a new football results service covering all the teams in the area.

“These are just a taste of what we would like to achieve,” said Howells. “We have a long list of goals, including reporting council meetings and news, police and emergency services news, increasing our coverage of business news, sport, arts, music, entertainment, charity groups and campaigns – things we don’t have the resources for at the moment.

“And we are looking for local people to tell us what they would like us to cover, as well as giving journalists the opportunity to pitch in with ideas for investigations or news that they think should be covered.”

Source: Press Gazette

Are you thinking of setting up a co-operative? We can help you; the Wales Co-operative Centre provides free advice and support to co-operatives within the Convergence area of Wales.


Written by C Kenzie

October 14, 2011 at 9:30 am

Holiday history – add yours here!

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As the height of summer nears, a website dedicated to the history of Wales and its people is calling for people to share their holiday stories from popular destinations across the country.

Blaenau Gwent visitors and locals alike are being urged to share their memories and photographs online at People’s Collection Wales.

The bilingual website is dedicated to sharing the history and experience of Wales and its people with the world. Nearly 30,000 items – from old photographs to video stories – can be found there.

Rheinallt Ffoster-Jones of People’s Collection Wales said: “Wales is an area of outstanding natural beauty recognised throughout the world. Photographs could highlight not only changes in the type of visitors, recreational activities and types of businesses, but economic change, culture and attitudes.”

For more information or to upload your items to the People’s Collection Wales visit the website www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk

Source: Wales Online

The People’s Collection Wales website is run by Digital Heritage in the Community – an initiative supported by Communities 2.0.

 

Visit www.clickconnectdiscover.org to find out more about community groups and digital inclusion.

Written by C Kenzie

August 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm

The young, the Welsh and women: Britain’s new coupon clipping heroes

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New research from CouponCoupon uncovers a new generation of savvy money savers.

Cutting out coupons from the back of packets may be a thing of the past, but research has uncovered a new generation of British coupon clippers thriving on the digital alternative.

An online YouGov survey of over 2,000 British adults, commissioned by CouponCoupon.co.uk, reveals that women, those aged between 25-34 years and those living in Wales, are making the biggest savings by tapping into the benefits of coupon, discount and voucher codes.

Intent on shopping around and never paying full price, the survey shows that 25-34 year olds think they are saving on average more than £300 a year by using coupon, discount and voucher codes – almost £50 more than the national average. Almost half (48%) search for voucher codes before checking out online, compared to 32% nationally, while as many as 43% visit a coupon or voucher code site when shopping, compared to just 28% across Britain.

When it comes to differences between male and female buying habits, when shopping or thinking about buying an item, 32% of women will visit a coupon code site, compared to 25% of men. In addition, 28% of women said they are more likely to shop with a retailer they have a coupon for than one they don’t, compared to 22% of men.

Almost half of people living in Wales (47%) search for a voucher code before buying online, with other regions seemingly less switched on to the benefits, such as Scotland (22%) and those in the North West (28%).

Kenny DeAngelis, founder of CouponCoupon.co.uk, comments: “The children of the early eighties remember queuing up at the supermarket with their parents, armed with coupons cut out from magazines and the back of packets to save on the weekly shop. Those 25-34 year olds are now leading a new wave of money saving in Britain. It’s cool to coupon and these canny shoppers have no hesitation in cashing in vouchers or using coupon codes to bag a bargain.”

Source: Response Source

Communities 2.0 have produced a series of How to guides. Read How to save money online – offers and vouchers websites for a guide to the coupon websites.

 

For more information and support with getting online and using new technologies, visit www.clickconnectdiscover.org

Written by C Kenzie

June 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

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